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When we reviewed Emily Barker and The Red Clay Halo’s fourth album a couple of months ago, we knew we were listening to something special. It was a magical blend of classical, rock, country and folk influences and it worked a treat. Singer-songwriter Emily originally hails from Australia but is now based in the UK, which is a good thing as we brits appear to love her. Having released three critically acclaimed albums and written the award winning themes for Wallander and The Shadow Line, Emily is well on her way to becoming a household name and we chatted to her about Dear River, her recording process and musical influences. 

emily barker

Your new album was released last month, can you tell us a little bit about it?

Emily: Dear River is my first ever “concept” record. The theme running through all the lyrics is the idea of ‘home’. It’s my personal story of home, starting out in Western Australia, traveling the world, settling in the UK – a home away from home. But along the way my story covers those of others and talks of emigration, exile, colonisation, Indigenous Australian politics and more. I used the idea of a river to try to pull all these tributaries and tangents of home together. Musically speaking, inspiration came from PJ Harvey, Gillian Welch, Neil Young, The Decemberists, Low, Laura Veirs, Frank Turner and the list goes on…

And what about the recording process?

Emily: The recording process was incredible as it was organised by our audiophile record label: Linn. They teamed us up with an incredible producer/engineer called Calum Malcolm (The Blue Nile, Lau, many other greats) in a studio he designed himself, located in Glasgow called Gorbals Sound Studio. It was state-of-the-art and it was any recording artists dream come true. We did 13 songs in 10 days and I’m really proud of the outcome. Listeners can expect a more “high-end” sounding record I guess as well, as we’ve gone for a rockier sound than previous records – I think it’s important to always push yourself in new directions and that’s what we’ve done with Dear River.

Describe your sound…

Emily: I guess folk/pop/Americana/slow-core ? It’s quite ambient and sparse in places with the string arrangements and vocal harmonies, but we also do the more straight alt-country rock thing on a few numbers now. I’m so bad at answering this question, hopefully that gives an outline.

Who are your musical influences?

Emily: Neil Young is a huge inspiration for me. I grew up listening to him because my dad is such a fan. I discovered soul when I was a teenager and was obsessed with trying to sing like Aretha Franklin, Koko Taylor, Betty Lavette and other amazing women soul and blues African/American singers. A more contemporary influence is PJ Harvey and especially ‘Let England Shake‘, it changed my life actually – so poetic. Gillian Welch is also right up there in top 5 I reckon.

What do you think is the best album ever written?

Emily: Blue by Joni Mitchell

What’s been your best gig so far? 

Emily: One of them would have to be when in ‘Folk in a Box’. It’s a one-on-one experience where a performer sings one song to one audience member in the dark, inside the smallest music venue in the world. It’s incredible to perform with absolutely no barriers.

If you could duet with anyone, who would it be? 

Emily: Neil Young

What TV show would you like to hear your music featured on?

Emily: Breaking Bad or Deadwood – my two all-time fave series.

Where in the world do you most want to perform?

Emily: America America America America! Can’t wait to get there and experience just how vast the place is.

What’s your fondest musical memory?

Emily: I think it would have to be when we came off stage after our sold out Union Chapel headline show last November. For about 8 years it had been my goal to headline that beautiful venue and we sold it out! It was such a moment for me and The Red Clay Halo. A wonderful milestone.

What are you listening to right now?

Emily: A punk band from Devon called Crazy Arm, an Austin Lucas record called Somebody Loves You, Phosphorescent Muchacho, The National Trouble, Chris TT’s forthcoming album The Bear, and Nick Cave Push The Sky Away.

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